Photograph: Adrian Sherratt / Alamy
I am a college survivor and, after more than 50 years of silence, a witness to the Truth Project which was established as part of the independent investigation into child sexual abuse (IICSA). It’s nice to see the investigation’s recommendations, especially on mandatory reporting and a redress scheme that will help some, though not me (investigation calls for a new offense in England and Wales for failing to report child abuse, 20 October ).
But it is disappointing that elite institutions and their abusive culture once again escape true reform. There is no recommendation on ending early (pre-adolescent) boarding, although its harmful breakdown of attachment bonds is recognized as a major factor in the ongoing traumatic effects of institutional sexual abuse (in my case it was of forced nudity, lack of privacy and shame).
There is no recognition that early boarding is a choice, not a necessity like a care placement. I’m surprised? No – college education is a profitable industry with influence. A few years ago, Boris Johnson claimed that money spent on older child abuse investigations was “hit a wall”. Where did that comment come from in his college-damaged psyche? As his crumbling legacy dominates the news, I once again feel ignored.
Name and address provided
• It is good that IICSA has highlighted the sexual abuse – and also other abuses and neglect – that many thousands of children have suffered in England and Wales in recent decades. However, the fact that the investigation makes a reporting law mandatory at the heart of its recommendations reflects its failure – and that of society at large – to appreciate the dire state of child protection in the UK today.
As I wrote in Professional Social Work magazine earlier this year, the number of health visitors and school nurses was reduced by a third during austerity; hundreds of childcare centers have closed; police services are unable to control all digital devices they seize from suspects in child sexual abuse cases, due to lack of resources; and delays in pending cases have increased by five months in the past three years and now stand at a staggering one year and 10 months.
It is unclear whether a mandatory reporting law would help address child abuse and neglect, but prioritizing this very secondary measure and not the profound crisis afflicting the country’s child protection system is at best. negligent and intentional at worst.
Dr. Bernard Gallagher
Independent child protection specialist
• The IICSA proposed ban on pain-inducing restraints in childcare institutions where children are held is essential. But this ban on restraint must go beyond just young offenders. Across the UK, innocent children in care are routinely handcuffed and detained when transported between care facilities. The Hope campaign instead of handcuffs has launched requests to ban this practice. And at a minimum, we need to increase transparency and accountability to ensure that all transport organizations that use handcuffs on children in their care report these cases of coercion to local authorities.
We asked the UK government to follow the example of the Welsh government, which introduced the Restrictive Practices Reduction Framework to protect vulnerable children from harmful handcuffs and restraint practices. This makes Wales the only nation in the UK to face the brutal practice of physical restraint used against vulnerable children during transport.
Chair, hope instead of handcuffs
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